Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

A Toronto activist and writer who was stopped by Vancouver police a day after arriving in the city says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents.

Desmond Cole has worked for years to end street checks or “carding” in Toronto and says he was the subject of a street check by a Vancouver police officer on Tuesday.

Street checks involve officers stopping a person and recording their information, regardless of whether an offence has been committed. Opponents say street checks disproportionately target people of colour.

“I get to leave Vancouver this weekend, but people have to live here every day. That’s what I really want people to sit with,” said Cole in an interview Wednesday.

“If this is what happened to me, what is everyday life like for vulnerable residents in the city of Vancouver and in this province? That’s the question people have to ask themselves.”

RELATED: Toronto man shot dead while attending memorial, investigators say

Vancouver police data shows that 16 per cent of street checks last year were of Indigenous people, who make up two per cent of the population. Another five per cent of street checks involved black people, who make up one per cent of the population.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs have filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner calling for an independent review of the practice.

Police in the city conducted an internal review and released a report that says there was “no statistical basis” to conclude officers use the checks to discriminate against certain races.

Cole is visiting Vancouver to deliver a speech on racial inequality at a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives fundraiser. After the interaction with police on Tuesday afternoon, he posted a video of himself discussing the incident on Twitter.

In the video, he said he was smoking a cigarette on a sidewalk near Stanley Park when a police cruiser passed, pulled a U-Turn and stopped next to him. The officer told him he was breaking a bylaw against smoking in parks, Cole said.

Cole said he replied that he was not in a park and wasn’t from the city. He refused the officer’s repeated requests to give his name or show identification. He said the officer threatened to arrest him, but after about 15 minutes he left without issuing a ticket.

Cole said as the officer drove away, he said: ”I’ll be seeing you around again.”

In the interview, Cole said the officer also asked several times whether there were any warrants out for his arrest.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians from unlawful search, seizure and detainment by police, he said.

“I could have just given the police officer whatever he asked for. But I don’t want to live in a police state. I actually want the laws that are on the books in this country to apply to me just as they’re supposed to apply to everybody else,” Cole said.

RELATED: Two men from Toronto rap scene shot dead

Vancouver police issued a statement saying a street check was not conducted and no information was recorded. The officer approached Cole because he was smoking on the south side of the park, but chose not to serve a ticket, Const. Jason Doucette said.

“Our officers work through difficult situations every day and a key component of maintaining public safety is interacting with the public. VPD officers carry out their duties with integrity, compassion and respect and are accountable for their actions.”

Cole said police appear to have classified the incident as not being a street check because no information was recorded, although in his case he refused to provide any.

“If it was an unsuccessful street check, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a street check,” he said.

After the incident, Cole said he visited the police station and a sergeant later met him to discuss the encounter at a cafe where he was meeting to discuss carding with Josh Paterson, director of the civil liberties association.

Cole said he decided not to file a formal complaint because he doesn’t have faith in the ability of police to investigate themselves, and the civil liberties association complaint to the police complaint commissioner has already raised the issue.

Paterson said his group’s complaint also covers police stops where no information is recorded into the database.

He said he was saddened, though not surprised, by Cole’s experience.

“It’s a really stark example of what we’re talking about, in terms of arbitrary police stops where race is a factor.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Committee to oversee expansion of Teck coal mine in Sparwood

Socio-Community Economics Effects Advisory Committee formed; plus other District of Sparwood news

Accused in Fernie stabbing case remanded in custody

Livan Chris Barnett is scheduled to appear in Cranbrook Law Courts via video on December 17

Hosmer woman victim of a broken health system

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

Law professor owes career to Legion scholarship

Forty years after receiving an invaluable scholarship, Nancy Banks has paid it forward

Avalanche Canada issues special public warning

Very weak layer buried under recent snow a cause for concern

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Christmas comes early for Fernie Ghostriders

Riders take massive 6-0 victory at home, acquire pro player from Denmark

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Fernie pair shares learnings from life-changing experiences in the mountains

Martina Halik and Todd Weselake host Q&A at special screening of This Mountain Life

Final phase of Kelowna hospital cardiac centre completed

Finishing new recovery rooms marks completion of $381 million project

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Most Read